The state of Kansas ranks dead last in the United States with the smallest share of good-paying jobs filled by workers without a college bachelor’s degree.
New research by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, in collaboration with JPMorgan Chase, revealed less than 35 percent of jobs in Kansas pay an average of $55,000 per year and a minimum of $35,000 annually were held down by these less-educated workers.
The sparsely populated state of Wyoming came out on top with half of jobs hitting that benchmark. The other high-performing states in that metric were New Jersey, Maryland, Connecticut and Utah. In addition to Kansas, the bottom five were New Mexico, Mississippi, North Carolina and the District of Columbia.
“If the business community, policymakers and education and training providers are working towards placing workers in good jobs, we first need to know where they are,” said Chauncy Lennon of JPMorgan Chase.
Decline in the nation’s manufacturing sector — Kansas is no exception — wiped out many solid jobs open to high school graduates.
In the future, the researchers’ report said, bright career opportunities exist for individuals with at least some post-secondary education and training, especially in health, information technology and financial fields.
Since 2012, the Kansas Legislature and Gov. Sam Brownback supported allocation of millions of dollars in financial incentives to draw high school students into technical training programs offering industry-recognized credential. The idea was to give individuals who might not seek a four-year college degree an easier path into the job market.
The Kansas Board of Regents reported the state issued less than 600 technical certificates five years ago, but the number surged to more than 1,200 in 2014, 2015 and 2016. It’s the kind of statistical record Brownback has trumpeted in State of the State speeches and other public appearances.
“I would put us at best in the country in changes we’ve made,” Brownback said. “We should continue to build our career and technical education programs that are empowering students to have good-paying jobs upon graduation.”
Kevin Doel, spokesman with the Kansas Department of Commerce, said the agency’s partnerships with five local workforce development boards provided a variety of opportunities to meet changing requirements of employers in Kansas.
“We believe, as we continue to grow our manufacturing sector along with the supply of trained workers, that increased wages should follow,” Doel said.
Anthony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown Center, said two-thirds of the nation’s workforce lacked a bachelor’s degree. He dismissed the notion good jobs no longer existed for individuals without a four-year degree, but said people entering the job market would be increasingly well-served by holding an associate’s degree.
“Even though there have been big losses, manufacturing still provides the largest number of good jobs,” Carnevale said.